With most kids back in school at this point, and starting to get homework, it is time to think through how to help your child or teen navigate keeping track of and completing their homework. Whether they are in Kindergarten or twelfth grade, it is important to foster some level of independence while also having accountability as needed. Additionally, while all children and teens benefit from a good system for tracking and planning out completion of assignments, individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or executive function weaknesses may need additional support to create and follow through with a structured system. Furthermore, a good system can help mitigate issues with tracking assignments related to ADHD/executive function issues.
Here are some strategies to help you assist your child or teen in developing a system for keeping track of assignments and completing them:
- Sit down with your child/teen and discuss the need to keep track of assignments.
- Evaluate what existing systems can be used and added to (i.e., school portal to-do list, calendar from school portal, daily or weekly emails from teacher, printed assignment sheet).
- Develop a system where ALL assignments are written down in one place.
- Here are some ideas for how assignments could be recorded:
- If all assignments are listed accurately in a school portal, a child/teen theoretically could use this as their master list of tasks. Then, each day, they could write out what assignments they are going to do for homework in an electronic task list (Google Tasks can work well especially if your child’s school email account is through Google), Google Doc list, whiteboard, piece of paper, or in another feasible location.
- For older kids and teens, more planning will likely be needed with long-term tasks, but starting simple can help establish systems that can be expanded upon later in the year.
- There are still sometimes benefits of having assignments written out separately from a portal, especially if the portal is difficult to view everything easily for planning purposes.
- You could export/sync assignments from a school portal to an external electronic calendar for easy reference. Any assignments not listed there should be manually added.
- Using a homework planner app or program to either manually add assignments or sync them with the school portal can be a great option for streamlining visually what needs to be completed.
- Using a whiteboard in the homework area. Assignments should be copied from a paper planner or electronic portal to the whiteboard. Some variations of this idea include:
- Creating a structured table or preset whiteboard with days of the week can be very helpful.
- Put a sticky note with each assignment on the whiteboard on the due date or date that will work on it.
Options for kids who cannot read yet or well
- Use a whiteboard that has sections for each class (i.e., reading, writing, math) along with a picture to represent it.
- Have a yes or no column where a child can put a magnet on the proper column each day to note if they have homework in a given class.
- With parental assistance if necessary, they can write down the name of the assignment or something that will ensure that they know what task to complete (this can also help develop writing skills).
- If needed, another column could be included where assignments are marked off when complete.
Regardless of how assignments are recorded, setting up a simple system to make sure assignments have been completed (and turned in) is usually helpful. For younger kids, sitting with them to review each assignment, and then marking it off the list after it has been submitted electronically or put in the right place to go back to school may work well. If necessary, having a separate indicator after assignments have actually been turned in at school may be useful. With older kids and teens, showing a parent the list with assignments marked off as completed (as long as it can be accurately assumed or verified that tasks were actually finished) could work well.
Best of luck to everyone with the new school year!
Copyright 2021 Carey Heller, Psy.D.
*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*